Richmond man with rights restored unable to vote; ACLU blames election staff training

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Governor McAuliffe made history when he set out to restore the voting rights of over 200,000 ex-convicts here in Virginia, but that process hasn’t gone as smoothly as some might have hoped.

Such is the case with James Walpole, who has had his rights restored but is still unable to vote in this historic election.

97722d9d3ac8471996c173c4b9590192“I’ve never been able to vote and it’s always meant something to me. I’ve always wanted to vote,” Walpole explained.

The 66-year-old Walpole has never voted before and, unfortunately, was unable to vote in Tuesday’s election either.

Though his voting rights have been restored, Walpole is homeless. He says he has done everything in his power to register to vote, but his application was denied.

“On the application, he was instructed just to put homeless and that’s the reason why the application was rejected, because it did not provide a residential address,” explained Hope Amezquita, Walpole’s Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Walpole initially turned in his voter registration application on October 6, but Amezquita says he was not notified by the General Registrar that his application had been denied in time to fill out a new form.

So, Walpole petitioned the Richmond Circuit Court so that he could register correctly, but was denied. Then, the ACLU appealed to Virginia’s Supreme Court on his behalf. That was also denied. Amezquita and Walpole were both disappointed in the courts’ decisions.

“We appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court hoping that they would find extraordinary circumstances given Mr. Walpole’s situation,” Amezquita said. “That it was the General Registrar in combination with the Department of Elections, that led to this situation. it was nothing on his part.”

In his attempt to go about things the right way, Walpole said, “a lot of homeless people I know, they’re voting and you know, when i started, the first thing they told me was a lie on the application.”

39c0436b6fbf40c5987858b18c06dfebAmezquita added that, unfortunately, Walpole’s situation is not unique. But the end result comes down to poor training.

“When a trained elections employee in the general registrar’s office isn’t properly trained to advise people like Mr. Walpole, their right to vote gets denied. and that’s the tragedy here,” she said.

Though unsuccessful in his efforts, Walpole is moved by the support he’s received.

“I would like to thank everybody in this office,” he told 8News. “You don’t know how (hard) these people have worked.”

Walpole has since filled out a new registration form and hopes to be able to vote in the next election.

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